The return on the Jesuit High boys basketball team’s potential has been nothing but positive in the early stages of the preseason.

Retooling their backcourt while adjusting their offensive strategy, the 2013-14 Crusaders haven’t missed a beat from last season’s fifth-place finish at the state tournament. Jesuit has gone on the road twice against Class 5A power Jefferson and 6A contender Grant and come out tested and encouraged for what the Crusaders (3-2 going into Friday night's game at Tigard) hope is an even better season.

“A realistic goal for us this year is a state championship,” senior guard Daniel Nelson says. “We work hard in practice every single day. It’s going to take a dedication and responsibility from all of us to put in time on our own and do the things coach wants us to do. If we can do that, follow his game plan and work hard, then I think we have a real chance.”

“We just want to work hard, get better every day and see what happens,” coach Gene Potter says. “I think we’ve proven we can be competitive with anybody we play against. But, whether we can get over the hump or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Jesuit came up short against Jefferson 67-63 and Grant 59-58. Potter says he liked the way the Crusaders moved the ball and made the extra pass against a duo of Portland Interscholastic teams that pride themselves on the defensive end of the floor. Additionally, the veteran coach applauds his team’s communal defensive effort so far, saying the Crusaders can take a lot of good away from the early losses.

“We’re just going to have to learn from both,” Potter says. “That’s going to help us in the long run, as long as we continue to stay confident, and know we’re doing the right things. Once you get into Metro League play and we’re going on the road, I think it’ll reap its rewards then.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Jesuit power forward Henry Mondeaux is getting back into the basketball swing of things after football season. Mondeaux started for the Crusaders last season.

After losing Xavier Coleman and 2012-13 Metro League player of the year Khyan Rayner to graduation, the Crusaders are thin in experience in the backcourt.

Yet, senior guards such as Nelson, Jack Bell and junior Reid Bucy have stepped in and accepted their roles both as offensive generators and defensive stalwarts.

“As a team, we’re still building,” Bucy says. “We’ve been working really hard in practice, and we’re taking everything as a learning experience right now. We’re pushing toward the next game.”

“We’re really getting after it in practice and pushing each other every single day,” Nelson says. “We’ve had some tough losses, but they’re early in the season. They’re learning experiences that are only going to help our team.”

Junior wing Ryan Bay and senior post Henry Mondeaux return to the starting lineup for Jesuit. Bay is a 6-4 swingman who has added strength to his frame, which has led to better, stronger finishes at the rim. Senior Jack Nadelhoffer can stick the 3 ball consistently and at 6-7 is long enough to help Mondeaux monopolize the boards.

“We have one physical guy in Henry, and pretty good length from our other guys,” Potter says. “We try to limit touches inside, pressure shots. We don’t have a shot blocker like we did a couple years ago. But I think we can contend inside.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Jesuit boys basketball coach Ken Potter says the Crusaders have held up well in the preseason with strong defense and passing.

Jesuit always has preferred to get into its opponents defensively and pressure the ball perpetually for 32 minutes. Without a shot clock in Oregon high school basketball, Potter believes controlling the tempo defensively can make teams play faster than they desire.

“Defense is mainly hustle, and I think we hustle like crazy,” Bucy says. “We just need to play a little bit smarter and do the little things that make defense so great.”

The Crusaders like to get everybody touches on the offensive end and have never solely leaned on one go-to star for production. With Coleman and Rayner running the show, Jesuit was more of a pick-and-roll, dribble-drive team, whereas this version will need to share the ball, set good screens and create more off both ball and man movement.

“For me, you watch ESPN and see all the individual highlights, but I like to see the extra pass that leads to the basket,” Potter says. “I like to see the backcut, the great screen to get your teammate open or things that happen two passes beforehand and anticipating something great. To me, that’s pure basketball. It’s a team game, and in the long run, the best team is the one that wins, not the one with the best individuals.”

Nelson says the Crusaders are bringing the diligent effort every night but are still working on getting everybody on the same page.

“We play better when we’re playing faster,” Nelson says. “We can really attack, but we have the ability to slow it down and go to our motion offense, which we work on all the time.”

Jesuit was one of three Metro League teams to advance to the 6A tournament last year.

And, with Sunset, Beaverton and Southridge all primed again, Potter says he expects another free-for-all dogfight when league play kicks off in January.

“I know you have to show up every night ready to play, or you’re going to get beat,” Potter says. “I think that shows up when we get out of league. Traditionally, we’ve been an incredibly strong conference, and I think it’ll continue to be.”

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